Residents allowed to return after fire

Firefighters seek cause of blaze at warehouse

January 08, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

As Southwest Baltimore residents returned to their homes yesterday after a six-alarm fire consumed a warehouse in their neighborhood, fire officials continued to sift through the rubble for a cause.

Neighbors expressed relief that no one, including the approximately 100 firefighters summoned, was injured in the blaze, which began in the two-story brick warehouse about 10:20 p.m. Saturday and lighted up the night sky for blocks.

"I thought I'd be shopping for a new house today," said Edward Scarlett, 35, who lives a few doors from the warehouse at Monroe and Eagle streets. "I came home expecting an indoor swimming pool."

More than 20 residents had to leave their homes Saturday night. They sought shelter at a nearby church, in Mass Transit Administration buses or with friends and family.

The fire was under control by 12:30 a.m. yesterday, and most residents were allowed back into their homes about two hours later, Fire Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres said. Some residents waited until after daybreak to return.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire in the building, which housed a sheet metal shop but was primarily vacant, Torres said. The blaze caused an estimated $500,000 worth of damage, he said.

"It virtually destroyed the building," Torres said.

When Scarlett was told he had to evacuate his home in the 600 block of Monroe St., he gathered his most valued possessions - his two dogs, some photographs and his wife's jewelry. His wife, Sharon, 34, wasn't home and said she was grateful her husband safely got out of the house with those possessions that couldn't be replaced.

The Scarletts didn't seek shelter but stayed out past 4 a.m., handing out food and coffee to firefighters at Edward Scarlett's parents' nearby sandwich shop.

"Smoke and fire was everywhere," Edward Scarlett said. "I thought I could touch it, it was that close."

Rangeree Powe, 31, was cooking in her kitchen when her children noticed the fire outside the window of their home in the 1800 block of Eagle St., near the rear of the warehouse.

"I was scared," she said. "It was so hot, you could feel the heat in the dining room, you could hear the windows crackling."

Powe grabbed her children, ages 1, 3 and 5, put on their coats and went to the shelter at Monroe Street United Methodist Church. She and her children later spent the night at her mother's house in South Baltimore.

Eurma Chapple, 54, spent the night at the church shelter with her brother after they left their home, also in the 1800 block of Eagle St.

"It was some place to go that was warm. It was cold outside," she said. "We were being sprinkled with water from the hoses."

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